This is the time of year when people reassess where they’re at in regards to their life and health goals, and may decide to make some changes. Many people struggle with altering their routines. Here are some tips for creating successful change. The first one on the list is the longest, and it is also the most important!!! You may find some of the other items helpful as well.
- Understand how change happens, and what is happening when it doesn’t. This chart helps describe what is needed for successful change, and provides a framework for understanding how to troubleshoot when challenges arise. The top row indicates all the things that need to be in place for successful change to happen. The column on the right shows what happens if one of those things is missing. Below this chart is a brief description of each of the terms.
|Vision +||Skills +||Incentives +||Resources +||Action Plan =||Change|
|Vision||Skills||Resources||Action Plan||Gradual Change|
Vision: have a specific, measurable goal in mind (eat 5 cups of veggies daily, exercise 30 minutes 5 times/week, etc.)
Skills: evaluate if you have the skill set to achieve these goals, or if you’ll need assistance (personal trainer, nutritionist, cooking class, etc.).
Incentives: why do you want to achieve this goal? how will your life be better when it’s achieved? what are some milestones on the way to achieving your goal, and how can you celebrate them without impeding your progress?
Resources: what you need in order to make the change (gym equipment, more recipes for different types of food, etc.)
Action Plan: how are you going to go about changing your habit? what are you going to do to set yourself up for success?
All of these components are necessary for creating successful change. When you run into trouble, check out the right column, and see if how you are feeling about the process provides insight into what is needed to get back on track.
- Recruit a change team. Social support can be really helpful when effecting change. Consider finding a workout buddy, an online or in person support group, or a friend or family member who wants to make similar changes. Health coaches and naturopathic physicians can also be helpful for assisting with improving health habits and implementing changes. If you live with anyone, let them know what you are trying to change so that they are aware of your process and how you want to feel better. This is especially important with dietary changes, as it is challenging to avoid sweets and snacks if people leave them around the kitchen or bring them home as treats for you.
- Set yourself up for success. If you know you need to take a supplement or medication first thing in the morning, get it ready to go the night before with a glass of water so it is easy to do. If you are avoiding sweets, don’t purchase new ones, and put the old ones in hard to access places, like cabinets over the fridge, or out in the garage, so they are not easily seen or reached.
- Attach your new habit to an old routine. For example, if you always brush your teeth after breakfast, have your supplements or medications next to your toothbrush and build the habit of taking them at the same time.
- Find your no turning back moment. For example, when starting a new exercise routine, at what moment are you truly committed to doing it? Is it when you change into workout clothes, or when you start the yoga video? Is it when you tie on the sneakers, or when you step out the front door? Once you know your moment, just focus on reaching that moment. Instead of thinking of the entirety of your workout and becoming overwhelmed by how much there is to accomplish, just get yourself to the no turning back moment and the rest will unfold in front of you.
- Make technology your ally in this journey. There are many, many, many apps for both phones and computers. There are photo journals to track foods, stretch break reminders with instructions, alarms for supplements, bedtimes, and wake ups. There are instructional videos for starting a basic yoga practice, and calendars for tracking exercise consistency with rewards along the way. Use these tools to foster better habits that promote your health and wellbeing.
Hope you enjoyed these tips! Please note, these tips are for general information only, and do not constitute personalized medical advice. If you would like personalized recommendations with diet, lifestyle and exercise, or assistance in making these changes, please make an appointment for my Optimum Wellness services. Wishing you robust health and successful change in the coming year!
Dr. Tremblay holds degrees in horticulture, plant ecology and ethnomedicine, and a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Her diverse background and personal experience with chronic disease gives her unique insights and experience in providing naturopathic care for patients. Read more >>